Saturday, December 30, 2017

Districts’ Other Revenue Grew, But May Not Be A Gain

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |

Yesterday’s post discussed changes in district revenue per pupil from 2008 to 2016, looking at local, state, and federal funding, including the district on-behalf payments. It left out the Other Revenue listed in Revenue and Expenditure Reports. This post explains why that Other Revenue may not show school districts’ gaining any financial ground.

KDE's Chart of Accounts Quick Reference Guide shows that:

  • Bond Issuance is a big part of Other Revenue. When a district sells bonds, the buyer expects the purchase price back with interest. It’s quite a lot like taking out a mortgage: you get dollars now, but you also get a matching obligation to pay back all those dollars, and more, within a matter of years.
  • Sale or Compensation for Loss of Fixed Assets is another major part of Other Revenue. In a sale, the district gives up something (a bus, a copier, an obsolete building) for the dollars it receives. When a district is compensated for a loss of that kind of asset, that again means something has been given up. In either case, the district might gain, lose, or break even, but to tell, we’d have to compare the dollars received to the value of the items—and the Revenue and Expenditure reports don’t tell us the item’s value.
  • Other Revenue also includes some additional categories without a major heading, including loan proceeds, capital lease proceeds, other items, capital contributions, amortization of premium, special items and extraordinary items. Loans sure sound like they need repayment, and capital leases sure sound like the district has to let the renter use some district buildings or equipment. There’s room for more research on these, but the terms themselves show that the amount paid in may not really add to the district’s bottom line revenue.

In short, the common factor in Other Revenue seems to be that the district gives up something to get something else, and the problem is that we can’t tell if the end result is a gain or a loss.

So, in the chart below:
  • Yes, Other Revenue was reported as higher by $640 after adjusting for inflation, and
  • Yes, Total Revenue including that Other Revenue was higher by $446 after adjusting for inflation, but
  • No, that does not tell us that districts had $440 more to spend on serving students

Details for Number Lovers:

Source Notes: The sources for this post are the same as for yesterday's revenue post.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Since 2008, Districts' State Revenue Losses Have Been Bigger Than Local & Federal Gains

| Post by Susan Perkins Weston |
From 2008 to 2016, looking at average inflation-adjusted per pupil dollars, Kentucky’s districts saw:
  • A $168 increase in local revenue
  • A $68 increase in federal revenue
  • An $820 decline in state revenue sent to the school districts
  • A $389 increase in state payments on behalf of school districts
  • A $194 decline when those four sources are combined
Those rising on behalf payments include state payments for school employees’ health insurance and for teachers’ retirement, along with some other items. In 2008 reports, reported total district revenues did not include those payments, so the amounts above reflect the on-behalf totals from a separate page of the same spreadsheet file.

Still, it should be clear that when you add the two parts of the state funding together, the totals are down since 2008, and down by more than the increase in local and federal money flowing in.

The relevant state reports also list some "other revenue." An upcoming post will explain why those dollars may not reflect added district ability to meet student needs, so stay tuned.

Details for Number Lovers:

Source Notes:
FY 2008 local, federal, and state (excluding on behalf) revenue totals are from the Receipts tab of “Receipts and Expenditures 2007 2008” spreadsheet, downloaded from

FY 2008 state on behalf revenue total is from the On Behalf tab of the same spreadsheet of “Receipts and Expenditures 2007 2008” spreadsheet.

Inflation-adjusted 2008 revenue totals reflect a 12.61% increase to show change in the Consumer Price Index from December 2007 to December 2015 (using December as the midpoint of each fiscal year and inflation rates from the BLS CPI calculator).

FY 2016 local, federal, state, and state revenue totals are from the 2016 AFR Revenue tab of “Revenues and Expenditures 2015-2016 ” spreadsheet, also downloaded from

Per pupil amounts reflect the total revenue dollars, divided by 585,496 pupils in average daily attendance in FY 2008 or 618,455 pupils in average daily attendance in FY 2016, taken from the spreadsheets listed above.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Two new ways to see learning | Better tests, better learning

| Post by Cory Curl |

Note: We're taking time to explore what families and communities might want to know about what's new and what's around the corner for student tests in Kentucky, organized around five major purposes. With this post, we're focusing on the second purpose: providing information to help teachers understand and guide student learning.

  • Learning
  • Informing
  • Clarifying
  • Benchmarking
  • Measuring

  • As a parent, I'm always curious about how learning happens in my child's classroom, and appreciate parent and community leaders who express curiosity about how learning happens in all classrooms.

    One area that I've enjoyed learning more about in the last few years is formative assessment. There are many different definitions out there. To me, formative assessment is a process teachers use to see what students know and can do, and then, based on what they see, make decisions about their next teaching steps.

    Image of Mars Curiosity rover downloaded from NASA

    Formative assessment informs the learning process. Our last post was about ways to get information out of students' brains to strengthen students' learning. This is about ways to get information out of students' brains to strengthen teacher understanding about what a student (or group of students) knows or does not yet know, or even misconceptions that need to be addressed. Teachers can then better make decisions about whether an individual student (or group) grasped the lesson and is ready to move on, or needs extra practice, help clearing up a misconception, or more intense support to master the concept.

    As in our last post, this is about testing with little or no "stakes" such as grades or scores for students.

    Conversations with Kentucky teachers have introduced me to two new ways formative assessment is being used in mathematics classrooms:

    1. Exit tickets
    An exit ticket is a question or short series of questions that students answer after a lesson or at the end of the day to give teachers an immediate grasp on what students have learned and where they might be struggling. Teachers then use the information they glean from exit tickets to decide what support individual students, groups, or the class as a whole needs on a particular concept.

    2. Formative Assessment Lessons
    The Kentucky Department of Education has designed Formative Assessment Lessons (FAL's) in mathematics for elementary grades. Students complete a pre-assessment prior to the lesson, the teacher shares the lesson, and then students work in small groups to complete a task. Teachers then analyze student responses to the task. Based on their responses, they provide immediate feedback to students in the form of questions or thinking prompts. They can also group student responses into categories to determine what group of students have mastered certain concepts, have misconceptions, or need more intense support. They can also look at the responses as a whole to decide how to go through the rest of the learning unit. This story from Kentucky Teacher shares how teachers use FAL's at Kirksville Elementary in Madison County.

    Here are a few more resources about formative assessment:
  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Five Key Strategies for Effective Formative Assessment from Dylan Wiliam
  • What is the Exit Ticket? from Eureka Math
  • Teacher guidance on using exit tickets on teacher/coach/author Doug Lemov's Field Notes blog

  • Next time, we will discuss how tests can be used to clarify learning expectations for teachers, parents, and students.

    Tuesday, December 19, 2017

    Just a moment for learning | Better tests, better learning

    | Post by Cory Curl |

    Note: We're taking time this week to explore what families and communities might want to know about what's new and what's around the corner for student tests in Kentucky, organized around five major purposes. Today, we're focusing on the first and most important: student learning.

  • Learning
  • Informing
  • Clarifying
  • Benchmarking
  • Measuring

  • Many tests have stakes attached -- a grade, a license, a scholarship spot -- and these stakes make us nervous. This post is not about these tests: it's about tests with little or no stakes at all. This might not even fit your definition of a test! That's fine!

    This post is about tests that are just between us and our brains. They create learning.

    I'm wary of adding to your list of edu-jargon words, but this might be a new one for many of you: retrieval. We too often think of learning as getting information into our brains, but it turns out that long-term learning, knowledge, and understanding emerge from getting information out of our brains. And when information lays quiet in our brains too long without being retrieved, it fades away. The Pixar film, Inside Out, depicted this process vibrantly.

    Image downloaded from Pixar

    This means that done well, short tests or quizzes can be an important strategy for learning. As well, prompts for students to quickly reflect on or summarize what they've learned, flashcards, problem sets, and other similar methods of "retrieval practice" have been shown to be effective learning strategies. Stakes are not necessary, but effort -- and sometimes struggle -- are. Learning is the reward!

    I've benefited from my own learning about retrieval practice in three ways:

    First, as the parent of a first-grade student who brings home graded and non-graded quizzes, work that includes reflection prompts, and sets to make flashcards, I can better understand how these strategies are supporting his long-term learning and incorporate them into our learning time at home (including the occasional spelling "cwis").

    Second, as a professional who attends quite a lot of meetings, I now take just a moment or two after each meeting to free-write key takeaways and action steps (without looking at my notes). This practice has helped me make deeper connections among the various areas of work that we do.

    Finally, as a graduate school student taking challenging courses with a brain that's on its fifth decade of operation, I know that listening, taking notes, and even understanding a concept during class does not mean that I've learned a thing. I test myself on important concepts ("What are the two assumptions that need to be met for this research method?") after doing pre-class readings, after class, and then at various points in time afterward. These are concepts I need to learn and do not want to fade away.

    To learn more about retrieval and other learning strategies:
  • Books and guides on Retrieval Practice
  • The Science of Learning from Deans for Impact
  • "Students should be tested more, not less" by teacher/author Jessica Lahey, The Atlantic

  • Next time, we will move out from student and the student's brain, to how tests can inform decisions that educators and parents make to benefit students.

    Better tests, better learning

    | Post by Cory Curl |

    Prichard Committee members have long taken great interest in tracking the Commonwealth's educational progress on key measures, including the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), or "The Nation's Report Card". NAEP provides results in reading and mathematics for 4th and 8th grade students at the national and state levels (as well as for large cities such as Louisville) every two years. (It also provides less frequent information on a variety of other subjects such as science, civics, and the arts.)

    We were expecting a new round of NAEP reading and mathematics results this fall, but the public release has been postponed until March or April. It turns out that in 2017, for the first time, most students took a digital version of the NAEP test on tablets instead of a paper version with the traditional #2 pencil.

    According to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), the agency that oversees the test, "the digital environment allows for innovative ways to tap students’ knowledge and skills. For instance, a reading passage is presented with vivid illustrations and a means to refer back to the text when answering questions. On the mathematics assessment, a calculator embedded on the screen appears when requested by the student and is hidden when not needed to avoid unnecessary distraction when working on items that may require calculator use."

    Given this digital transition, NAGB is taking more time to analyze the results to make sure they can still be compared to past years to track progress.

    This transition also has us thinking about what's ahead for tests in Kentucky classrooms.

    As schools slide into winter break this week, we'll explore what's new and what's around the corner for students, their families and communities, according to five major purposes:

  • Learning
  • Informing
  • Clarifying
  • Benchmarking
  • Measuring

  • Please join us!

    Tuesday, December 12, 2017

    Supporting The Youngest Kentuckians: The Early Childhood Development Fund

    Kentucky’s Early Childhood Development Fund uses 25% of Kentucky’s annual revenue from the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to support the full development of our youngest children. Here’s how the 2017-18 funding is being put to use under the budget adopted in 2016:

    • $9,000,000 for the Health Access Nurturing Development Services (HANDS)
    • $8,894,700 for the Early Childhood Development Program
    • $2,050,000 for the Early Childhood Advisory Council
    • $1,100,000 for Early Childhood Scholarships
    • $1,000,000 for the Healthy Start initiatives
    • $1,000,000 for Early Childhood Mental Health
    • $1,471,400 for several smaller programs

    That’s a total of $24,516,100 working to strengthen very young Kentuckians, and here’s a further explanation of those important activities.

    The HANDS program provides voluntary home visits to support new and expectant parents’ efforts to help their children grow and learn. All first-time parents are eligible for a first meeting to discuss questions and share resources. Parents who are facing multiple challenges can receive regular home visits that share information, link families to health and other services, and build on the strengths of each family. HANDS is short for Health Access Nurturing Development Services. 10,697 children and their families received HANDS support in 2015-16. Starting in 2016, HANDS support is available to families even if it is not their first child.

    This line item funds two main efforts:

    • First, the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) helps low-income working families afford quality childcare for their children, with the help being offered on a sliding fee basis for eligible parents and guardians. The Tobacco Master Settlement provides a portion of the funding for CCAP, with other dollars coming from the state General Fund and from the federal government.
    • Second, child advocacy centers provide comprehensive examinations for children who have been sexually abused in clinics across the state that have been designed to make them feel safe and reduce the trauma of the victimization and examination.

    This line item supports state and local work to develop and coordinate quality early childhood development. At the state level, the Early Childhood Advisory Council oversees standards and goals for Kentucky’s early childhood system and advocates for quality early childhood services and improved school readiness. Members are appointed by the Governor to represent a broad range of early childhood educators, administrators, and advocates, and the Advisory Council’s work is s supported by the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood. At the local level, Community Early Childhood Councils (also known as CECCs) promote high quality early childcare and education by working to identify and address local needs, building up capacity in particular counties or groups of counties. 74 CCECs have received funding for 2017-18.

    These scholarships strengthen the quality of early care programs and education. For those who work in early care and education programs or as preschool classroom assistants, scholarship dollars support work toward a child care development associate credential, an associate’s degree in early childhood education, a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary early childhood education or an approved related program, or early childhood development Director’s certificate. 1,374 scholarships were awarded in 2016-16.

    Healthy Start in Child Care provides free technical assistance to child care providers, promoting safe, healthy, and nurturing environments for children’s development. Nurses and health educators serve as Healthy Start consultants based in local health departments, and provide support by phone, e-mail, and on-site work.

    Regional early childhood mental health specialists help their regions better serve young children with social, emotional and behavioral issues. Their work includes providing evaluation, assessment, and therapeutic services for young children and their families, along with training and consultation to strengthen programs that serve those children. The program supports a specialist for each of Kentucky’s 14 community mental health center regions.

    SMALLER PROGRAMS: $1,147,100
    Tobacco Settlement resources also provide:

    • $891,400 to help pregnant women recover from substance use disorders
    • $500,000 for early childhood oral health efforts
    • $80,000 for the folic acid program

    Monday, December 11, 2017

    Excellence with Equity in the Early Years

    | Post by Cory Curl | 

    Last week, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released information about the readiness of incoming kindergarten students in the fall of 2017* – the children who will graduate from high school in 2030. The data include results for students overall, but also by gender, race/ethnicity, eligibility for free or reduced lunch, learning differences, and English language learners.

    The data make clear what Kentucky has recognized for decades:

    1. We need to do all we can in the earliest years to make sure children are ready for kindergarten by supporting families in creating safe, nurturing environments at home and by providing high-quality early learning experiences.

    2. We need to make sure children have early elementary learning environments that meet them where they are and help them achieve at their highest potential, addressing their specialized needs and engaging them in challenging, active, and meaningful work.
    From our perspective as equity-minded education advocates, we can look at the statewide results to get a better sense of where schools will need to target resources in the early elementary grades to help each student master reading and mathematics (and well beyond, including social-emotional learning) by the end of the third grade.

    For that, let’s look back at statewide results** for last year’s kindergarteners, the mighty Class of 2029.

    Overall, four student groups have readiness rates (a composite of academic/cognitive, language development, and physical development domains assessed by teachers) below 40%: students eligible for free or reduced lunch, students with disabilities with an IEP, Hispanic students, and English learner students.

    Key findings digging into these domain data (reported as “below average”, “average”, and “above average”):

    • Across all groups, the academic/cognitive domain has the lowest results, with 63% of all students starting kindergarten in the “below average” range. The lowest results here are among the same four groups as in the composite rate.

    • The greatest variation in results is in the language development domain, which ranges from 23% “below average” for female children to 77% for English learner children.

    • Across all domains, African-American children fare higher – in other words, they have lower “below average” rates – than children eligible for free or reduced lunch, students with disabilities with an IEP, Hispanic students, and English learner students. 
    The screener also provides information from parent surveys about children’s social-emotional development and self-help. While the overall results for the social-emotional domain are relatively high – 27% of incoming students have “below average” results – they vary from 17% for female children to 43% for children with disabilities with an IEP.

    All of these results are important for individual children, their families, and their teachers. The patterns and trends we see in them can also point to where schools are more likely to need to allocate additional support for students – clearly, based on these results, to students with low family incomes (more than 64% of the class of 2029), those with learning differences, Hispanic students, and students learning English. 

    This equity data journey would not, however, be complete without walking through the school from the kindergarten to the third grade classrooms. Step inside.

    What do we learn? Quite a bit.

    In 2016-17, across Kentucky’s third grade classrooms:

    • African-American students had lower reading proficiency rates (33%) than students with low family incomes (47%), students with learning differences with IEP (39%), and Hispanic students (43%).

    • African-American students had lower mathematics proficiency rates (30%) than students with low family incomes (42%), students with learning differences with IEP (31%), Hispanic students (41%), and English learner students (31%).
    Kentucky has set ambitious goals to increase reading and mathematics proficiency and close the disparities that have denied equity of opportunity for far too long. While every moment of every day of every grade matters, early childhood and the early elementary grades are an essential part of the equation.


    * This readiness information comes from the state’s Common Kindergarten Entry Screener (the BRIGANCE Early Childhood Kindergarten Screen III). I encourage you to check out the recent results, but also keep in mind that 4,500 fewer students were tested this year than in previous years due to the change in the kindergarten enrollment age cut off from October 1st to August 1st. The absence of these younger students in the overall data makes it difficult to compare trends.

    **Thanks to KDE for giving rich detail by school, by domain and by student group in the School Report Card – just click on state, the assessment tab, and then K-SCREEN. You can also go to “Data Sets” at the top and download an excel file. This is the most recent year where we have detailed results available to the public.

    Wednesday, December 6, 2017

    Needs-Based Aid Has Not Kept Pace with Rising Higher Education Costs

    | Post by Perry Papka | 

     Over the last decade, Kentucky’s investment in need-based financial aid has not come close to keeping up with public tuition or with the cost of living.

    From 2008 to 2018, Kentucky saw:
    • A 2% increase in funding for the College Access Program (CAP), from $60.5 million to $61.9 million
    • A 4% increase in funding for Kentucky Tuition Grants (KTG), from $32.5 million to $33.7 million
    • An 18% increase in the Consumer Price Index
    • A 41% increase in tuition at Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges, the state’s 2-year institutions
    • A 58% increase in tuition at Kentucky’s four-year regional, comprehensive institutions
    • A 64% increase in tuition at Kentucky’s four-year research institutions

    How many students would have used needs-based aid if it had been available? For 2017, the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority estimated that:
    • 28,058 more Kentucky students likely would have used CAP grants if funding had been available
    • 3,777 more Kentucky students likely would have use KTG awards if funding had been available
    • $43.3 million in added funding would have been required to meet likely CAP need
    • $10.1 million in added funding would have been required to meet likely KTG need

    For 2018, CAP and KTG are slated to receive just 40% of projected lottery revenue. State statutes call for the two programs to receive 55% of lottery dollars, but the General Assembly has regularly used budget bills to change how the money is used. Allocating the full 55% could have made another $37 million for these two needs-based programs this year. Lottery revenue grew 29% and $55 million from 2008 to 2018.

    Kentucky needs to better link investment decisions about tuition, state financial aid, and support to colleges and universities. Growing needs-based aid so little while costs grow so much poses a major risk to Kentucky’s ability to equip the next generation to contribute to our economy and our civic life.

    Source Notes: The Consumer Price Index increase comes from using this calculator to convert dollars from July 2007 (start of the 2008 fiscal year) to equivalent current buying power, and the Work Ready funding figure comes from HB 303, the state budget bill adopted in 2016. Tuition figures reflect analysis of public tuition data from the Council on Postsecondary Education. Financial aid figures reflect analysis of data provided by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

    Tuesday, December 5, 2017

    Kentucky Public High School Graduates and Public Postsecondary Completion

    | Post by Perry Papka |

    Kentucky has set an ambitious goal of 60% postsecondary attainment by 2030.

    Here’s a first look at of how Kentucky public high school graduates fare in Kentucky public postsecondary institutions, shown as results for 100 students, using data for the high school class of 2010. Credentials include certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, and bachelor degrees. Some Kentucky high school graduates. This analysis does not include students who enroll more than a year after finishing high school, and it does not include those who enroll at independent Kentucky institutions or out-of-state schools.

    This initial look at pipeline outcomes demonstrates that Kentucky will need bold strategies, steady implementation, and strong investments to meet our statewide attainment goal. The results for students of different backgrounds offer an added emphasis: Kentucky’s progress will require enduring commitment to excellence with equity.

    Persistence and earned credentials are shown as a range of numbers to take into account students who may have enrolled in both a two-year and a four-year institution within a year of high school graduation. The lower number shown above eliminates all possible double-counts, while the higher one includes all possible double-counts.

    Data for the charts above came from Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics ( KCEWS also offers district-level data on college-going, early success, and completion through its new interactive high school feedback report.

    Monday, December 4, 2017

    Postsecondary Costs Have Shifted Sharply Toward Students, Families

    Postsecondary degrees and credentials strengthen individuals and our state as a whole. That is, they have both private and public value.

    In 2006, Kentucky’s investment to build that public strength covered 66% of the costs of public postsecondary education. Today, that investment is smaller and covering barely more than half of the cost. Meanwhile, the portion paid by individual students and their families has grown dramatically, increasing by nearly more than $3,000 and 88%. Here's a chart showing the scale of the change:

    For many students, this kind of rapidly rising costs may put higher education out of reach. For the state as a whole, this pattern risks another generation underprepared for economic and civic participation.

    Source Note: Amounts above are calculated from the “SHEF Unadjusted Nominal Data” file downloaded from, using figures that exclude medical students and medical costs. The chart below provides a more detailed look at the yearly numbers and changes, including the odd-numbered years not shown in the chart above.